The Navajo Path of Beauty is one of many beautiful Native American Medicine Wheels that offers a spiritual trail of wisdom and healing. Native peoples understand the cycles within all creation, whether they are daily cycles, seasonal cycles, biorhythmic cycles, life cycles--even political cycles. Thus, the circle represents the totality and equality of all in all things.
Like all Medicine Wheels, they lay out the four directions, (north, east, south, and west); each direction having a special significance. In this case the four directions represent Harmony, Balance, Peace and Truth. The Navajo, in their wisdom, knew that these four interrelated elements were essential to living a beautiful, whole life. So, how are we doing as a country right now in following this path?
Most would agree, whatever their political stripes, that Washington is currently a mess and we are a divided people. There seems to be little precious common ground between those who support the President and his policies, and those who do not. It is either “Make America Great Again” or “Not My President.” And, there are many divisions even within those two groups. Harmony, balance, peace and truth? Hardly!
Well, it is very easy to complain about this lovely state of affairs, but that hardly helps or leads to a solution. So, here are some thoughts to hopefully begin the dialogue.
1. Truth seems to have flown out the window with “alternative facts” and accusations of “fake news” everywhere. If we cannot begin with truth, then we will not be able to reach the other three directions. We have all become so partisan, that we do not listen to or get to know each other. There is a wonderful Muslim woman in Seattle who invites strangers to sit down with her and her family for a family meal and discussion. Is there a better way for someone to overcome their stereotypes and false impressions than over a delicious family dinner? Some truth will come out of those dinners.
Likewise, I was happy to see that President Trump made his way to the African American Museum the other day. There is no way that one cannot view that story or visit the Holocaust Memorial and not be deeply affected by what he or she learns and sees. I’m sure the visit was primarily for public relations purposes, but, nonetheless, it appeared the President was genuinely moved by what he witnessed.
Finally, I want to laud our imperfect, beleaguered, often misunderstood press corps. They are the Fourth Estate, in other words the fourth check and balance in a democracy. Between an independent Judiciary, the Legislative Branch (Congress) and the Executive Branch (the President), they provide an important balance essential to bringing out the truth. Like all institutions, there are sloppy and incompetent reporters, but there are also many dedicated, skillful journalists who follow to the best of their ability the ethics of objectivity in their profession. They are not our enemy. They are our watchdog. They are the Truth Seekers and Truth Tellers in our society.
2. Balance is another vital direction, and you might notice it has a lot to do with Truth. In marriage counseling we strongly recommend that couples accept the notion that there is always a bit of truth on both sides. You cannot imagine how many arguments that prevents if both acknowledge there is some validity to each other’s arguments and perspectives. In general, I have found very few times when someone is completely wrong or completely right. So, I may not agree with the President’s views on or tactics to resolve the immigration issue, but, if I am honest, I can see why some would be afraid of some immigrants, either as potential criminals or terrorists. Is there some way to find a more balanced discussion or approach? I’m not sure there is as long as the greatest unbalancing agent of all remains in the discussion-FEAR.
Fear unbalances all discussions. As soon as fear enters the picture, then emotions are charged and our ability to listen or understand is greatly impaired. Tempers flare and we are out of balance. Today we see so many fear-based decisions coming out of Washington. Fear of people from other countries. Fear of Muslims. Fear of the gay, lesbian and transgender community. Fear of people from other races. Fear of women’s empowerment. Fear of the media. So much fear, yet, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt so cogently stated in his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
So, what overcomes fear? Simple. Getting to know each other.
Some years ago one of my colleagues in my Christian Seminary told the story of how she and her female partner were founding members of a Baptist Church in Central Florida. For many years they were lovingly accepted members of their church fellowship, until a new pastor arrived. One night they heard a knock on their door and there was the new pastor standing on their doorstep. He informed them that they were no longer welcome at the church. I still remember the hurt and sadness on her face as she told the story; how betrayed she felt by people whom she thought of as long-time spiritual family and friends. One wonders how Christ would have reacted to the fearful judgment of that pastor and church against a woman so dedicated to her faith and service to others; a woman who felt called to Christ’s ministry. Might Jesus have wished that that pastor see her as a spiritual sister and not an enemy. What if that pastor had simply sat down with her and her partner over a cup of coffee and come to know them as people and not labels?
3. Harmony is a bit more difficult to arrive at without the first two directions, but we will give it our best. Shamanic peoples, which were essentially every culture in the world at one time, did not define their community as just their friends and neighbors or town or church or country, but also included the Animal Nations, the Plant Nations, the Mineral Nations , the Elemental Nations, Mother Earth, Grandfather Sun, Grandmother Moon, the Star Nations, the unborn, and the ancestors--in other words there was nothing that was not part of their community. As native peoples had to live close to and rely upon Mother Earth for their survival, they understood that living in harmony with all that was around them, enhanced their survival as well. They had a deep respect for all these brothers and sisters in Great Spirit’s Creation. They could not imagine taking more than they needed or wasting any of God’s precious gifts. They were the ultimate environmentalists and are leaders in eco-awareness today.
Where is the harmony in denying what we have done to our world through ravaging our forests and rain forests, our oceans and waters, our air, our animal and plant cousins-all in the name of progress and profit? So we attack the Environmental Protection Agency and deny Climate Change despite near universal scientific consensus. We attack Planned Parenthood despite a world population spiraling out of control. We build walls that divide us rather than building bridges of understanding to unify us. We remove legal protections from bears and wolves to please ranchers We ban people because of their religion. We stereotype others and do not see our brother and sister under the stereotype.
If there is anything I have learned as a Universalist and in all my studies of the great spiritual teachers--Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, White Buffalo Calf Woman, Krishna, Confucius, Viricocha, Kukulkan--they tried to bring people together and their underlying principle was always love. So, once again, I remind you that our church has the “good news” (gospel) also: “We are all Brothers and Sisters.” The second we remember and act on that, then we will achieve the fourth direction.
Ho Mitakuye Oyasin (A Lakota Benediction meaning “All Our Relations” or “We are All Related”)